The Power Plant Live complex speaks volumes about hipness—and we're not just talking about the pulsating music. There's a see-and-be-seen party vibe going on, even on a quiet weeknight, which makes Tatu a perfect fit in this mix of clubs and restaurants.
Tatu scores high on the glam meter. It's sumptuously decorated in a bordello kind of way. Think textures—plush midnight-velvet banquettes, scarlet brick walls, glistening beads dangling from the ceiling, carved wood columns, sleek bars, gaudy but beautiful lamps, and luxe restrooms.
You could easily be swallowed up in all the tactile gorgeousness. But this Asian restaurant is more than just a pretty face. It makes sure the food doesn't play second fiddle to the swanky décor.
As your eyes adjust to the dim glow from the romantic votives on the black-clothed tables—I honestly recommend bringing a flashlight for the menu—one of the wait staff will deliver a bowl of chilled pickled cucumber slices, an excellent amuse-bouche. Order a watermelon mojito with a fresh-fruit garnish to set the mood. It's a nice introduction to the food offerings featuring three styles: Pan-Asian (Asian ingredients combined with French techniques), Hunan and Szechuan (traditional Chinese comfort food), and sushi and tempura.
It's a lot to take in. One of my guests puzzled over the heat/sweet quotient of the Thai green-curry shrimp. Our waitress Sarah—one of the most accomplished servers I've had in a while—thoughtfully brought a sample of the sauce. Such niceties continued throughout the meal. When someone was struggling with chopsticks, Sarah delivered silverware—impressively weighted, I might add.
Similar to a tapas place, dishes at Tatu arrive at the table as soon as they're ready. The artistic presentations match the care that went into the restaurant's setting. The huge crackling calamari salad was an eagle's nest of greens and crispy calamari rings in a miso vinaigrette. The lettuce cups were neatly perched on the plate with a bowl of slightly-too-cooked fried minced-chicken nuggets, mushrooms, and pine nuts, with a dish of sweet-spicy sauce.
From the size of the portions, we began to realize that these plates are meant to be shared. Even the sushi was enormous. The power roll was a mega-hit with shrimp tempura, lump crab salad, tuna, avocado, and cucumber. And the tropical citrus salmon roll bespoke warmer climes with salmon, mango, avocado, and tobiko (fish roe).
There was a brief lull before the onslaught of entrees. This Tuesday night, the restaurant wasn't crowded, so even though there was a dedump-dedump-dedump techno beat emanating from the sound system, conversation was easily carried on.
Our pleasant repartee continued as the crispy orange beef and charred rare ahi tuna main dishes were set before us. But the third entree jarred us to full attention. The crispy whole fish was awesome. The fried black sea bass was perched jauntily on a sea of fried rice noodles as if it were swimming toward us with its little fins flipped out. It was easy to peel off the skin from its skeleton to get to the moist meat.
Rice—white or brown, your choice—accompanies the dishes. A side order of spicy long beans (actually, regular green beans) boosted with sesame oil, chili pepper, ginger, and garlic was a great green addition, but I really liked the fried spinach that came with the medallions of ruby-red tuna. It was like munching on delicious spinach chips. Someone must sell these somewhere.
Sarah, who delivered take-home boxes of food neatly marked with the contents of each, didn't miss a beat when we asked to see a dessert menu. My full stomach leaned toward the pomegranate-ginger granita, which was a refreshing ending. The tropical flavors were soothing, even if the ice wasn't as finely shaved as it could have been. The slivers of honey-almond cookies tasted heavily of marzipan but were worth a bite or two.
But, perhaps, the finest dessert I've had so far this year is Tatu's banana macadamia spring rolls, a jumble of sweet flavors. The warm crispy spring rolls, stuffed with banana cheesecake filling, shared space with a troupe of fresh halved bananas, a pile of macadamia brittle, and a round of dulce de leche ice cream. Where to begin? It doesn't matter. You'll get to it all soon enough.
The show wasn't over yet. When the check was presented, so was a big pouf of green-apple cotton candy, appropriately dubbed by the restaurant "Marge" as in the beehive-hairdo mom on The Simpsons. You can't help but pluck at the airy confection that tastes like a tart Jolly Rancher candy. Oh, and there are also temporary tattoos included with the bill. My Chinese characters translated to "dream."
And so I will dream about another visit to Tatu, a land of seeming enchantment.